Controversial new building in state Capitol complex moves forward

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A new $90 million state Senate office building and parking facility inched closer to reality Tuesday when the state Capitol Area Architectural and Planning Board approved design plans for the structures.

The Pioneer Press reported that the building, to be constructed across from the state Capitol, would include what it called "powerful views" through a three-story glass facade. The main floor would feature open public gathering spaces and large committee hearing rooms. Senators would office in the top two floors. A two-level parking garage would be built under the building. The plan also includes a new three-level parking ramp nearby. The Business Journal previously noted that the new building would add 154,700 square feet.

Next, designers must nail the OK from the board on landscaping and mechanical details. Then House and Senate rules committees must give the project their final approval. If granted, construction could begin in March and could be completed in 18 months.

Controversy has swirled around the project because it was authorized as part of a massive tax bill that passed the last night of the 2013 session. At that time, legislators didn't know how much the structure would cost, and they didn't have to vote for the funds to pay for it.

In October, the Associated Press reported former Republican state representative Jim Knoblach sued Gov. Mark Dayton and the state in an effort to stop the project, calling it "...a ridiculous case of a glaring waste of money." MinnPost reported that Knoblach was angry about "wasteful spending on another building for bureaucrats."

The suit claimed the DFL majority violated the state Constitution in how it approved the project. A hearing on the suit is scheduled later this month.

The Pioneer Press story said that Republicans who have criticized the project as an example of wasteful DFL spending could use it as a campaign issue in upcoming legislative racess.

A massive $272 million renovation project for the Capitol complex has begun after being passed in last legislative session.

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